Yours Until the Walls Come Down
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
“I’m Yours Now” is an enigmatic show title — a redundancy in New York, where intellectual tease is the sine qua non — until you learn two essential facts about it, and then all becomes clear: First, this is a show of murals: wall pieces (sometimes incorporating floor and ceiling, too) by seven artists, most receiving their American debuts. The second salient fact: At the end of the run, when the gallery “strikes set,” as theatrical folk might put it, all will be lost, as the walls are painted and the floor wiped down.
The title, therefore, has to do with the democracy of murals (I’m yours), and the carpe diem of temporary site-specific art (now). Gallery artist Arturo Herrera is the show’s curator, and he has presented a refreshingly anti-commercial notion: What you see is what you own. I guess the sales team can take the summer off.
Jan Van der Ploeg (b.1959), a Dutch artist based in Amsterdam, fills the entrance and office with bright abstract monochrome design, one in blue, the other orange. In each, stretched over several adjacent walls, from floor to ceiling there is a continuous element with arcs or circles cookie-cut into it to show negative shapes. They have generic titles, “Wall Painting No. 165” and “No. 166” respectively (2006), but then, in parentheses, the designation “(6-Pack)” which makes the source suddenly clear: the plastic that binds six cans of liquid (beer, usually), twisted out of shape. It is a typical neo-conceptual conceit, to create something corporate, orderly, logo-like, and vaguely brave new worldish out of an ubiquitous, mildly disreputable, overlooked item of refuse.
The British-born Terry Haggerty (b.1970) continues the theme of minimalism with potential for wit with a couple of murals, also in stenciled acrylic paint, and also possessed of a retro look (Op Art in his case). “N & U” (2006) presents a whole wall of evenly stacked continuous horizontal lines that break at the half-way point in a stylized kink, which takes the line up a notch. This induces multiple potential trompe l’oeil readings: They can, for instance, resemble files, piling every which way.It turns out, on investigation, that like Mr. Van der Ploeg, there is another vernacular, consumable source for his choice of ornament: He was inspired by the décor on the icing of British commercially produced Bakewell Tarts.
The work of these two artists, while site specific, is easily adaptable to other locations. The work of Ann Veronica Janssens (b.1956), who was born in England and exhibits widely throughout Europe, could also presumably be reconstructed with considerable ease. Its date indicates it has been: “Red Torquoise” (2002) consists of the colored light projected by a pair of 2300-watt halogen lamps. One lamp is on a tripod, the other on the floor, but both have an anthropomorphism in the way they tilt back, as if in astonishment.The emitted light is seemingly declaimed, or sung, onto the wall.
After these chirpy installations the mood darkens. In “Acted-Out Misfortunes” (2006), a mural 32 feet wide, spread over adjacent walls, Brooklynbased Jeff Bechtel (b.1974), who was trained as an illustrator, works in black and white, in a variety of media, with a different style and quality for each medium: charcoal for grotesque figures and plants, dispatched in an accomplished, expressive hand; spray paint for James Rosenquist–like grafitti elements, and acrylic for what read like poured abstract shapes, blobs that obliterate the drawing beneath. The layering of styles and mediums gives the work the stressful overlappings of a bad dream.
The Berlin-based Portuguese artist Jorge Queiroz (b.1966) also favors multiplfe mediums, though less from the theatrical sense of colliding languages to be found in the gothic Mr. Bechtel, and more from a nonchalant sense of endless doodling, as if either the ink has run out on a particular pen, or the artist has simply gotten bored of using it. His mural,12 feet wide and looking diminished on its large supporting wall, uses oil pastel, pencil, acrylic paint, and color pencil, all to fussy, involved, and somewhat cramped ends. The work is predominantly abstract, though with a sense of phantasmagoric structures growing out of each other.There are occasional figurative elements, including one instance, in the pencil drawn passage, where a couple tumble off a couch, as if caught in flagrante — a metaphor, perhaps, for the viewing, or making, of this fumbling, hapless piece.
A gallery has to be confident of its status in the art world to feel happy with the contribution of Simon Dybbroe Møller (b.1976), a Danish artist based in Frankfurt, Germany. “Inside the Ceiling, Inside of You” (2005) (a title redolent of PS1’s icky body art survey, “Into me/Out of me”) is a well-worn installation art joke. Using varnish, coffee, plasterboard, a plastic bucket, and newspaper, it makes out that the gallery has sprung a leak and is doing its best, in makeshift fashion, to cope with the situation. It had me fooled on the first viewing, and my dog tried to have a drink on the second.
Claudia Wieser (b.1973) has created an installation in a back gallery, “Proménade geométrique” (2005/ 2006), which anticipates its temporality through inbuilt mechanisms of decay. The floor is coated in aluminum foil that chips as visitors walk through it. Like other artists in this show, the installation has a retro feel, but of an older vintage: Ms. Wieser has papered the walls with black-and-white photocopies of geometric shapes whose intersecting, obtuse angles are redolent of the Futurist motif of fanning searchlights. The sensation is an odd mix of somber and upbeat. The blown-up, grainy, graphic quality of the walls makes one feel as if one is not just viewing, but has actually been sucked into a news report.
Until August 18 (530 W. 22nd St., between Tenth and Eleventh avenues, 212-929-2340). Prices: $5,000–$20,000.